Schools given chance to appeal accountability grades

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Indiana schools dissatisfied with their A-F accountability grades from the Indiana Department of Education will have the opportunity to appeal.

The Indiana State Board of Education released the appeal process for the A-F grades that were supposed to be released to schools on Sept. 24, but delays in scoring the ISTEP test — Indiana’s standardized test that is tied to accountability grades — may push the release date back. Once the grades are released, schools have the opportunity to appeal the grades if administrators believe there was an error in the calculation of the grade.

The grades are calculated based on a series of factors including ISTEP test scores, graduation rates for high schools and other performance measurements. The grades have become increasingly important factors recently in determining teacher pay, school funding and possible state takeover.

Accountability grades are issued to individual schools and whole corporations annually. Local schools generally earn As or Bs. In the last two years, for example, Northeast Dubois earned two As for the corporation, as did Southeast Dubois and North Spencer. Greater Jasper received an A in the 2015-16 school year and a B in the 2016-17 school year. Southwest Dubois received Bs both years.

Since they do get high grades, local school administrators generally don’t appeal their A-F grades. However, several years ago administrators at Southeast Dubois did appeal the grade for Forest Park Junior-Senior High School.

“It didn’t help us, but it didn’t hurt us,” Superintendent Rick Allen said. “We sure did learn a lot about it.”

Most of the lessons from the experience were about how A-F grades are calculated, Allen said. Since Forest Park has both junior and senior high school grades, their accountability grade is calculated differently than most schools. Since the junior and senior high school operate as one school, A-F calculation guidelines for both middle and high schools are used to calculate Forest Park’s accountability grade. The result is a grade that isn’t comparable to peer schools.

“You can’t compare us to (other high schools) because they don’t have grade seven or eight,” Allen said.

To appeal a letter grade, schools must fill out an online request that includes information about what administrators think was incorrect in the calculation in the two weeks after the scores are released. From there, the Indiana Department of Education will either conduct its own audit or forward the request to the Indiana Attorney General to be assigned a hearing officer, depending on the details of the request.

The IDOE oversees more than 300 schools, but processes less than 100 appeals each year. In the last three years, the most appeals happened in 2016-17 with 52 schools submitting an appeal request, according to data from the State Board of Education.




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